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Email overload burning me up while the sun has got his “out of office” on

28 August 2008

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Cathryn Bateman
Consultant Editor, MiP

Well, what a washout! I’m speaking of summer, of course, which has given me a feeling of deja-vu … didn’t we have exactly the same kind of weather last summer? Whatever happened to “global warming”? Let’s just say it’s certainly cooled off.

As far as life in general practice is concerned, things have cooled off too – for now. I always find summer is noticeably quieter and generally allows a little time to catch up, since anyone who is anyone is generally sunning themselves in preferential climes.

It also means there’s time to try and read the reams of “useful” information that hits our desks and our inboxes every day. Is it me or do we get double the amount of information by email than we used to get through the post? Then again, where would we be without email?

I know where I would be: very much saner. Okay, it’s a fabulous tool but it also seems to be a dumping ground for anyone to send any information – relevant or not. I have just returned from two weeks’ leave and spent my first two days back addressing emails. Many of these weren’t particularly relevant, but I still felt under pressure to read them and action them.

I’ve also found that primary care trust staff, in particular, tend to use emails to abdicate responsibility. At times, they pass on information requiring urgent action and it seems that once the email has been passed on, that’s it – despite your “out of office” telling them you are on a beach and won’t be back for a while to action their request!

As you can probably tell, it’s been a long first week back. And now I only have two more weeks of annual leave to take this year! Next time around, I’m actually considering getting a Blackberry, so as to avoid the dreaded return to a crammed inbox when back at my desk. Hmm … perhaps I really have lost it!

Event horizon
While I have been off sunning myself, life at Management in Practice has been busy as usual, since it’s conference time.
The London Event in early September will have just taken place by the time this magazine hits your desks, and then we have the Birmingham NEC Event to look forward to in October. This Event is extra special, as we will be announcing the winners of the Management in Practice Awards. Interviews have been taking place over the summer to determine the winners, and we’ve already seen so many examples of innovative and excellent practice management.

Highlights of these, including a premises redesign that focused on relieving patients’ stress levels and a Northern Ireland practice that went beyond statutory requirements to improve disabled access, can be found on this website. There is still time to register for the Birmingham Event and it would be great to see you there.

In this issue …
We also continue to celebrate good practice in this magazine. We have a profile of cover star Grant Scott, whose rural practice has launched a groundbreaking sexual health clinic to remedy a lack of local provision in this field.

The innovation has been made possible through involvement in practice-based commissioning (PBC), which has had a mixed level of national uptake so far. Steve Williams presents an extremely useful guide to the key areas you, as practice manager, should know about PBC – not just for the benefit of patients, but also for your own development portfolio.

And PBC specialist Graham Poulter exposes the levels at which some practices are being wrongly charged for secondary care episodes, which can play havoc with your indicative PBC budget.

There is also a comprehensive report relating to the latest survey, this time on risk management. The results were not particularly surprising to me, although I was put to shame when I realised how many of you appear to have comprehensive business contingency plans in place – perhaps that is something I should have been doing rather than reading all that redundant information over the summer.

Finally, we also have full reports on Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review, as well as the recent uproar over the “p” word: “polyclinics”. Now, you really would have to have been out of the office and on a sunny desert island for a long time not to have heard of these issues …